Since the onset of the corona virus crisis, the supplier of extrusion technology Fibre Extrusion Technology Ltd. (FET), Leeds/UK, has received an unusually high number of inquiries about its nonwovens meltblowing systems.
The company is currently running trials, preparing samples and defining specifications for companies in Germany and Italy, as well as the UK, and could already have sold the lab line they have many times over. The line primarily designed for R&D and pilot scale applications, but trials have proven it to be suitable for the low volume production of critical meltblown face mask materials.
Meltblown polypropylene (PP) nonwovens are the critical component of the face masks needed for Covid-19 frontline workers and their scarcity on the open market has in part been the reason for the reported shortages around the world. Conventional meltblown and spunbonded systems are usually designed for high capacity systems and are not suitable for product development. They consume high quantities of materials and as a consequence are not suitable for development work with high value materials or for niche applications. They also rely on specially formulated low viscosity polymers which is a further limitation which does not apply to FET’s nonwovens meltblowing systems.
In processing finer filaments, the company has achieved structures with average mean filament diameters of 1.68 µm and 58% of between 0.5-1.5 µm, in web thicknesses of 37 µm with bulk density of 98 mg/ml and porosity of around 92%. FET’s system is designed for the processing of pure polymer with no need for processing aids or additives.
A wide range of structural and mechanical properties are obtainable, with numerous options for post-processing of the web, such as by calendering, point bonding or lamination. More effective and sustainable PPE solutions could well be achieved through further product development.